I case you didn’t already realize this, publishers are in the business to make money not to publish quality literature. They need to print books they think the market will purchase and if that happens to be a work of outstanding literature then they are okay with that.
As you disagree with me, keep this in mind, Kurt Vonnegut said that Paula Barbieri received more in her signing bonus than he had made his entire life. You’re asking, “Who’s Paula Barbieri?” That’s my point. She was given $1.6 million for being O.J. Simpson’s girlfriend not for writing prose that will last through history. Do I blame the publishers for putting profit ahead of art and skill, no. They have a business to run and when they see the chance to make a profit they should take it.
One area where I think publishers are missing out is their ability to push onto the market whatever they want. Case and point, Paula Barbieri. Did anyone really care about the fact she was O.J’s girlfriend during his famous trial. He was in jail the entire time, how much of a relationship could they have had? But the spin and hype (which cost almost nothing) the publisher put on the book made it fly off the shelves. I wonder how many who bought the book actually read it to the end?
I’m not saying the burden of marketing falls solely on the publisher. The author should take the lion’s share because it is their book. Just as one would sell soap, the author needs to get out and pitch this book to the public. But, the publisher has the weight to get the book on shelves, get reviews printed, and placed higher on Amazon.com and Borders.com. With ebooks and P.O.D., they have the ability to test the market before investing in a large print run of 30,000 copies. Not all books that come out of the big publishers need to roll off a printing press. They should use the technology available to cut costs and increase their market share instead of looking down their nose at the advancements.
If they used this approach, it would be more beneficial for them to take on more authors in more genres. They will always jump at the chance to print a celebrity author but they shouldn’t ignore the other voices out there.